Every year, as the cold sets in I start to organise a big sit down Christmas in July dinner. Even after nine years in Australia (and despite being born in Malaysia) Christmas is very much a cold weather event for me. That’s not to say I don’t love big Aussie seafood Christmas lunches or backyard cricket – I do, but it’s just so comforting to sit down with a warm mug of mulled wine, the smell of Christmas pudding throughout the house and a big glazed ham on the table. It really helps me get through the winter, plus it makes actual Christmas seem not so far away.
If you’ve ever lamented not being able to spend Christmas with friends, Christmas in July is for you. Food, friends, fun and a great excuse to keep drinking red wine. What more do you need?
The first step is finding a good butcher, and the first thing you should ask them is if they use free range pigs. I don’t give my business to butchers that don’t, but that’s very much my personal ethos. It’s really not much more expensive at all, and definitely cheaper than the supermarket at around $10-$13 per kilo. The lovely guys at Ben’s All Meats in Belconnen are my personal favourite and I’ve been using them as long as I’ve been here in the ‘Berra. They deal with my inane requests week in and week out, including giant slabs of pork rind, whole beef briskets, special orders for wagyu mince, suet for Christmas puddings and I’ve even seen them selling whole sides of lamb. If you’re ever stuck for something, go there and tell them Tash sent you. (This is not a sponsored post, I just want you all to get to know your local butchers instead of buying your meat from the fresh food mob).
Ben’s ham is brined overnight then smoked using real hickory wood chips (lots of places cheat and use liquid smoke). The ham itself is moist with a good level of salt and oh-so-moreish. I had planned for leftover ham and pea soup, and I’m not entirely sure how, but 10 people ate all the four kilos of ham. If you do have leftovers though, cover the ham with the skin, soak a clean pillowcase or ham bag in a mixture of 1L water and 2 tbsp white vinegar, squeeze to remove excess water and place into the bag.
Right, let’s get to the food part – there’s three parts to a good glaze – sticky stuff (jam), sugar (brown for quicker caramelisation) and acid for balance (apple cider vinegar) – from there, you can add anything you want, like maple syrup – because it’s the answer to almost everything. I really wish it wasn’t so darn expensive here. Use them in any combination – mix up the jam with apple, apricot or marmalade, or swap sugar for treacle for a dark smoky flavour.
- 1 x 4-6kg ham
- 2 tbsp cloves
- ⅔ cup apricot jam (apple or marmalade work well too)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ maple syrup
- splash of dark rum (optional)
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Remove the skin from the ham, then score your ham into diamonds crosswise (or have your butcher do this for you). If you are planning on having leftover ham, make sure to keep the skin.
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Heat the jam, brown sugar, maple syrup and rum in a small saucepan until the ingredients have melted. Turn up the heat and reduce the glaze until it's thick and syrupy.
- While the glaze is on, stud each diamond with a clove.
- Liberally brush on the glaze, then place the ham in the oven for 45 mins, brushing with more glaze every 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes then slice across the grain.